PURI: In a joint drive on Monday morning, the district administration and Railway authorities started eviction of 200 encroachers from a land adjoining the railway station in Puri. A slum - Bali Upar Basti - had come up on 25 acres of land and the eviction drive was necessitated for expansion of the railway station in view of Nabakalebara festival scheduled next year.
The land will be used for construction of a pilgrim shelter during the festival and a parking lot at a cost of `seven crore. Nearly 30 lakh pilgrims are expected to land on the Pilgrim Town to witness the unique event that takes place once in 12 to 18 years.
Six bulldozers and other earth moving equipment razed the thatched houses and two temples in four acres of land in the slum amid heavy deployment of police.
Earlier, the Railway authorities had taken up the issue with Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and said the encroachments have marred expansion plans of Puri railway station. Naveen had directed the authorities concerned to expedite the eviction drive.
As a part of Nabakalebara festival, the State and Central Governments had also decided for four-lane Puri-Bhubaneswar road and doubling Khurda Road-Puri railway track. Work on both the projects is currently on.
As many as 20 platoons of police were deployed at the site to prevent any untoward incident. The administration and police have set up a control room near the railway station to oversee the eviction. The administration had informed the slum dwellers about the drive a week back and asked them to vacate the land.
The eviction drive on Monday went on for five hours and would continue till the entire 25 acres are made encroachment-free.
Apparently, the slum was considered a BJD vote bank and the dwellers enjoyed political patronage. The local BJD leaders had developed roads and provided electricity to the slum.